Gettysburg

This week is a big week in American History.  Tomorrow is July 4th,  a day to celebrate the release of the Declaration of Independence and beat up aliens , Yesterday was the aniversery of everyone agreeing this was a good idea, and the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

Today’s annivsery is Gettysburg.  Its a pretty well known battle of the American Civil War (or War for Southern Independence depending on who you ask).  Abraham Lincoln also did a pretty important speech here (the infamous “Four score” speech).  And for me, its got the added benefit of being local history (Gettysburg is located in the state of Pennsylvania.).

Gettysburg was a 3 day battle in 1863 between General Robert E. Lee and General George Meade.  It wasn’t planned to happen that way (they all thought it would happen in Maryland).  Meade had sent some of his men to PA to block off that direction, and Lee had sent some of his men into PA for some supplies.  They ended up both in Gettysburg and a battle emergers and Meade and Lee had to move to catch up with the fighting.

Three days later, Lee was not any closer to invading the North, and both sides were pretty equally beat up.  A grand total of approxamently 48,000 Americans were casualties of this battle by the time Lee withdrew on July 4th after a day of everyone catching their breath. Not a very good Indpendence Day for the Confederate States. In the end, the Union withstood their position, and the Confederate army left with no progress towards the north and close to 26,000 casuelties all on their own.

The war would continue for two more years, but this was the last major offensive of Robert E. Lee and considered by some historians to be a turning point in the war. Others disagree, but most agree that the Battle is very important in the course of the war.

To learn more:

History.com “This Day in History:  Battle of Gettysburg Ends

CivilWar.org “Gettysburg

Wikipedia:  Battle of Gettysburg

EyeWitnessToHistory.com  “Gettysburg

Yearly Reanactment

 

This Day In History

When looking at my daily email about events in history on this day, I found out today in 1776, The Second Continential Congress voted to adopt the resolution of Independence from Great Britian.

The resolution was presented by Richard Henry Lee on June 7th, but due to some lingering doubts from some of the colonies, they decided to wait to vote on July 2nd.  In the meantime they set a group off the write up a declaration.  This group included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and of course Thomas Jefferson.  In the end Jefferson was selected to be the primary author (which is why he often gets credit but we don’t often hear about Sherman or Livingston).  They managed to present the declaration to Congress on June 28 for review.  Not bad, writing a document that will literally change the world in only three weeks.

Since I think most Americans (and probably alot of non-americans) can remember something about Adams Franklin and Jefferson (and not just that two are on our money) I googled the other two.

Roger Sherman is the only man to sign all the starter papers for the US  (The Continnental Association (which I just learned about today), The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, and the Consitution.  He was greatly involved in the reorganization of the Connneticicut government and worked on developing guidelines for ambassadors, particularly those to Canada.  And according to Wikipedia, his Great-great grandson helped create the CIA.

Robert Livingston was the first Secratary of State (then called Secretary of Foriegn Affairs), and later as Ambassador to France.  It was then that he helped negociate the Louisana purchase, so a third of the country can thank him for being American and not French.  He also developed the first steamboat. He got the honor of swearing George Washington in as President.

On July 1st, Congress, like congress today, choose to debate the issue.  Unlike congress now, they unanimously voted for it, with only New York abstaining.  John Adams, according to History.com, thought that this would be the day we would celebrate.  In the end however, we celebrate the day they actually presented the Declaration to the public, July 4th.


Another key document was also signed today.  In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law The Civil Rights Act.  It was something that John F. Kennedy had fought for and that Lyndon Johnson picked up after Kennedy was killed in 1963.  Still, I’m not entirely sure how someone uses 75 pens to sign ‘Lyndon B. Johnson’.  Even if he spelled out his middle name and the name of the country.

The Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination against race in employment, education, and in public places such as buses, schools, parks, and pools.

 

Memorial Day

This weekend is Memorial day weekend.  I wanted to stop for a moment and thank all the men and women who have served this country in its armed forces or diplomatic corp who have worked hard to keep our country free and safe. Thank you for all you have done.

graves-1277181_1280

Memorial Day has been celebrated for over a hundred years, developing in the years following the Civil War as a day to pause in remembrance of the men who died during the War. At the time it was called Decoration Day, in reference to the fact that it involved people deocrating the graves of deceased soldiers.

It is not clear where the celebration started (Although Waterloo, NY likes to claim it was them, and others say Charleston, NC) but it soon became something celebrated across the nation.  However,the first purposeful celebration of it happened in Columbus, Georgia, where a group of women decided that on the anniversy of the final surrender of the confederate army, April 26, they should make sure to go out and decorate the graves of vetrans with flowers.  They mailed letters out to various newspapers across the country, and it became a national, abit southern, effort in 1866.

It soon was reported in Northern Papers after the southern women made a point to also decorate the graves of Union soldiers burried in the south and people began to join in on the activities.

On May 5, 1868 General John Logan, who was national Commander of the Grand Army at the time, declared that May 30th would be dedicated to the decoration of graves of those who died for their country.  He choose that day to avoid choosing a date of a battle.   However it wasn’t till 1873 that states started to recognize the day (starting with New York) and it was largely only celebrated on Logan’s date by the North.  Southern States continued to celebrate on dates of their own choosing.

After WWI, the day went from celebrating simply those who died in the civil war to those Americans who died in any war.  In 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act and set Memorial Day as a three day weekend, making Memorial Day the last Monday in May as well as making it an offical Federal holiday .  Southern States started to observe Memorial Day after WWI, but also kept seperate days to celebrate those who died as Confederate soldiers.

 

The Story Behind The First Memorial Day 

Memorial Day History

History.Com Memorial Day

US Department of Veteran’s Affairs:  Memorial Day History

Mother’s Day

Happy belated Mother’s day to all the readers who are mothers.

I was trying to figure out something to write about today other than perhaps my evolving theories around Tony Stark’s mental state (which don’t sound so much as theory as rambles, so I threw that one out) and went to look at “This Day in history.”

On this day in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first national Mother’s Day.  So its only been a holiday for 82 years.  Some states had such a holiday for a couple of years, but Wilson made it into a national celebration, declaring it mother’s day every second sunday in May.

Another interesting note about the day is that one of the leading supporters of making a National day for people to celebrate their mothers, Anna Jarvis, eventually hated the holiday, feeling it had been removed from the initial idea of individuals using the day to celebrate their mother’s sacrifices into a day celebrating all mothers and commercialism.  I’m not sure how different celebrating all mothers is different then everyone celebrating their own mothers, but I do get why she might have felt it had become overly commercialized.

 

It seems to me that most holidays have lost their meanings in the rush of cards, candy and gifts.  Religious holidays like Christmas and Easter have almost completely separate secular ideology.  Some holidays like Veteran’s Day and Memorial day have just become picnic occasions and less about honoring our armed forces and their sacrifices.And it does seem like there are new holidays popping up to be an occasion to purchase a gift or a card for someone you care for.

Not that I mind the gifts or cards, but sometimes I think remembering the reason the holiday was put in place would be a good idea too.

The Amendments: Twenty-Seven

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.

(source)

This amendment is interesting.  It is the last amendment passed, yet it was one of the first suggested.  It was originally proposed in 1789.  That was 227 years ago.  It was only ratified in 1992, which was only 24 years ago.  James Madison proposed it, yet somehow it took (according to wiki) 202 years, 7 months, and 12 days to ratify.   Seven states ratified it by 1792 (almost half the states in the nation at that time).  However, the ratification process seemed to lag just behind the increase of states, requiring it to need more and more states.

There are currently only 4 states that have never ratified it.   Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, and Pennsylvania.  Not that they really need to – its already law.

It was a bit of a controversy when it finally became ratified, as Congress had never dealt with a 200 year old amendement.  Some wanted it reviewed for validity.  However the Supreme Court held that any amendment not given a ratification deadline can be ratified at any point.

 

 

The Amendments: Twenty Six

This is a relatively easy amendment to talk about as it simply is that people, ages 18 years or older, are allowed to vote.

SECTION 1

The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

SECTION 2

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The amendments spend quite a few words on reminding us that we have the right to vote.  Previous amendments have added that it doesn’t matter what our race, gender, or ability to pay fees are, we have the right to vote if we are an American Citizen.  This Amendment adds that as long as an American citizen is of age (18), they have the right to vote.

This is important, because for many 18 year olds this year, their first opportunity will be to vote.  If you are 18 (or new to voting) and wondering how to register and/or vote, here are a few links to help you out:

Register to Vote (USA.Gov)

This website can help answer your questions (including about Absentee Ballots, which may be important if you are going to college away from your polling area and can’t get back to vote on election day).

The link takes you to their page on registering, but it also has many informative pages on voting and elections.

CanIVote.com 

This website allows you search and find out if you are registered to vote.  I tried it out and it sent me to my state’s services which told me I am registered (although apparently not to the party I thought I was.

The Voting Information Project 

This website is put together by a group of organizations including Google, and state governments to help gather information to help voters inform themselves on items they find on their ballots.

You can also google your state and voting information to find out information that specific to your states.   Remember that some states (like my own) have Voter ID laws and other such specifications on how you register and/or verify your vote.

The first step to changing the way your government does things is to participate in voting.  On average, only 60% of eligible voters actually participate during Presidential elections.  Its even less during midterm elections (about 40%) and even less than that when you are in between those two election years.  We can’t complain about not being heard when we don’t take advantage of what is already there to hear us.

Please register to vote and take advantage of your right to participate in your government.

And you can always listen to Martin Sheen:

The Amendments: Twenty-Five

For those of you who watched  West Wing (or you are up on your amendments), you may know what the 25th amendment is set up to do.  Several episodes of the television series mentions the amendment.  For those of you aren’t aware, The Twenty-fifth amendment deals with Presidential succession.

SECTION 1

In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

SECTION 2

Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

SECTION 3

Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

SECTION 4

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

(Source)

 

Before this amendment was passed by Congress in 1965 (and ratified in 1967), the succession to president had been vague as far as the constitution went.  There were of course precedent since by this time 8 Presidents had died in office, and several times the Vice Presidency was vacant.

However, before this amendment it wasn’t known what the exact line was.  Article 1, Section II, Clause 6 specifies that the Vice President will recieve the duties, and if there isn’t a Vice President, then Congress had the duty of selecting an Acting President.

When William Henry Harrison became the first President to die in office, people debated if the Vice President was really a President, or just an Acting President.  John Tyler took the oath of office, making the “Tyler Precedent” for Vice Presidents becoming full fledged presidents upon assuming the powers of their predecessor.

The Twenty-Fifth amendment clarifies the line of secession, and what Congress can do should something happen.

Section One reiterates that should a President die, resign or be removed from office for some reason, the Vice President should assume the title and duties of the Presidency.  This was also stated in the 12th amendment

Section Two clarifies that should a vacancy appear in the Vice Presidency, the President must present Congress with a nomination for them to confirm.

Section Three and Four  get a little more involved.  The example in the West Wing is that Jed Bartlet’s daughter had recently been kidnapped.  Reasonably, Jed was overwealmed and decided he could not be a worried father and a President at the same time right then and drafted a notice to Congress that he felt unfit to uphold his duties.

However, right before this event they had been without a Vice President for awhile as Bartlet’s first Vice President had resigned after a sex-scandal.  Thus the job went to the Speaker of the House, Glenn Walken.

Basically this section of the amendment lists what should happen if over the course of the Presidents term he feels he can not hold up his job.  It could be something like Bartlet’s emotional tormirl or perhaps a serious surgery that might keep him out of work for an extended time period.  If this happens, the President can write in to Congress and temporary the Vice President will assume the role of Acting President till it is determined that the President can resume, by either writing another note to Congress.

The Vice President and the President’s senior officers can also write to congress and claim he is unfit for duty.  At this point the Vice President would become Acting President.  The President could refute this and Congress would then have a month or so to review and make a decision on whether the President really is ready to resume his duties.

Other sources:

Article 1, Section II, Clause 6 (WIKI)

Presidential Sucession Acts (WIKI)

Presidential Sucession Act of 1941 (Senate)

 

The Amendments: Twenty-Four

The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.

SECTION 2

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

(Source)

The Twenty-fourth amendment to the consitution once again deals with voting rights.  While the 14th and 15th  amendments gave equal protection to voters, it wasn’t till the 24th amendment that Congress made it unconsitutional to charge voting fees.  Known as the poll tax, in largely effected the lower income and minority communities who couldn’t afford to pay the fees, thus couldn’t vote.  In 1964, there were still 4 states retiaining the poll tax.  Virginia, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas.  At first it was argued that it only effected federal elections, however in 1966 the Supreme Court struck down that argument, claiming the 24th amendment did not limit it to Federal elections, and frankly the poll tax violated the 14the amendment.

Discriminary voting regluations are still debated today, including the Photo ID Laws several states have put into action to prevent voting fraud.  Many however believe it unfiarly affects low income and minorities who don’t have access to locations to get their ids, or can not afford one.  My personal stance on this is neutral because I don’t think they are necessary because voting fraud is very very low and often more likely to be clerical error.  But I also found IDs are required so often during everyday things that its hard to believe people don’t have some form of ID, even if its just a state photo ID and not a driver’s license.

The Amendments: Twenty-Three

SECTION 1

The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as Congress may direct:

A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.

SECTION 2

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

(Source)

This amendment allows the District of Columbia (Washington, DC) to have delegates in the electoral college when it comes to presidential elections.  It does not change anything else about the way DC is govern, which even today is debated. It is not a state, but a territoty.  It is governed by Congress, and has no representation that can vote within congress (It does have 1 unvoting representative in the House).

Currently DC has 3 electoral votes.

This was passed by Congress in 1960, and ratified in 1961.